- Southeastern University’s record enrollment of 4,500 is almost halfway to its audacious goal of 10,000 students in five years.
- Citing a time crunch and frustration over budget decisions, City Commissioner Keith Merritt says he won’t seek re-election. His parting hope: a working wage for city commissioners so that more working-class people will be attracted to the job.
City government reporter Christopher Guinn had two intresting reads today:
Tigertown: A combination of design changes and poor soil has ramped the cost of renovating Joker Marchant Stadium, and the City Commission will be asked to up its contribution to the now-$40.8 million project from $2.4 million to $6.2 million.
Cleveland Heights: Frescos Bistro and Bakery, the only bidder, has reached an agreement to take over the bar and restaurant at the Cleveland Heights Golf Course. The eatery’s owners propose a rent starting at $4,000 a month instead of the revenue-share deal the city has with the current concessionaire.
- Plans to renovate Joker Marchant Stadium will have to be redrawn since soil near the clubhouse won’t bear the weight of construction, Christopher Guinn reports. No word yet on how much will be added to the $2.4 million the city of Lakeland has pledged (out of a total cost of $37 million.)
- Free rent was part of the deal to lure the Miss Florida Pageant to The Lakeland Center for five years. The city is also offering free rent at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport for three years to host the Polk State College aerospace program.
- A new lawsuit against lawyer John Vreeland is being withdrawn because he agreed to resign from overseeing a trust. He denies the allegations in the suit and says it was filed “for purposes of public consumption and in a further attempt to damage my reputation.”
- FSC is getting all STEMmy as the school year begins with more science students enrolled. “People often think of us as primarily focused on humanities or business and education, but sciences are essentially our biggest program,” its provost said.
- Three congregations are moving into new digs around North Socrum Loop Road following a series of real estate transactions.
- The school year beginning today has Florida Poly students looking forward to new recreational equipment but not as excited about some students having to share dorm rooms.
- Lawyer John Vreeland can continue overseeing the Leland R. Bryan trust as litigation against him from Bryan’s sons proceeds, Judge Keith Spoto ruled.
- Florida Poly is buying its president a Grasslands home costing $975,000, a value in the top one-tenth of 1 percent in Polk County.
- Sheriff Judd knew a $500 reward would lead him to the wanted man who taunted him on Facebook. “I knew it’d be just a matter of time before people he thought were his friends would give him up,” Judd said. The story was picked up by at least two tabloids.
- A little dog named Toto was the first pet to get emergency treatment under a new agreement between the Lakeland Fire Department and the SPCA. See more photos.
- Lakeland Electric flipped the switch on its third solar farm, which could power up to 1,300 homes in the next year
- A Lakeland man taunted sheriff’s deputies from the Facebook post that says he’s wanted
- A $50,000 gift to Lighthouse Ministries in memory of a MidFlorida administrator will let the homeless shelter complete a community room.
- Lakeland and Polk could be without a resident representing us in Congress, under a plan being pushed by the Florida Senate.
- The Lakeland Yacht & Country Club, where the elite meet to eat, has a new board after many members defected over a proposed $10,000 assessment
- Where the not-so-elite eat, Agape Food Bank is expanding capacity thanks to corporate donations.
- Harry’s Restaurant on Main Street — the breakfast-and-lunch spot at Ingraham, not the N’awlins place downtown — has closed again; the owner of the property said it’s a sign of the hard times facing businesses east of downtown.
- Jim Birkhold, the longtime clerk of the 2nd DCA who died in a car crash, is remembered as a compassionate advocate and good listener who liked helping others.
- In a hasty compromise, four Lakeland city commissioners directed their staff to prepare a budget based on a .9 mill increase in property taxes; the other three hope the final figure is lower.
- In a surprise announcement, City Manager Doug Thomas says he’s leaving his job in one month to join a consulting firm.
- In education, Southeastern University is opening a $6 million building for natural and health sciences, while Florida Southern College announces a $1 million endowment to provide scholarships for business students in need.
- And in philanthropy, United Way of Central Florida kicks off its $9 million campaign with the hashtag #GameChangers.